Ready, Set, Goal!
Harvard men's soccer started its season with a close win over local rival Northeastern in front of 2,500 excited fans
With a cloudless sky and a boisterous crowd of over 2,500 Crimson faithful lining the sidelines, the Harvard men’s soccer team could not have asked for a more picture-perfect season opener.
In its second season as the home field for the Crimson, Soldiers Field Soccer/Lacrosse Stadium was filled with an electric atmosphere Sunday night as the capacity crowd spurred Harvard (1-0) to a 1-0 win over cross-town rival Northeastern (2-1).
Sunday’s victory marked the Crimson’s first win of the season and its fifth consecutive victory over the Huskies.
“We had done our homework and we knew that Northeastern was going to be a strong team this year,” Harvard coach Carl Junot said. “But I knew that if we were disciplined, we could come away with a win.”
After nearly 83 minutes of stalemate, the game was decided by junior forward Brian Rogers, who blasted the ball past Huskies goalkeeper and caused the sidelines, filled with fans, to erupt with cheers.
“I think that it was an absolutely electric crowd tonight,” Junot said. “The two teams on the field were evenly matched tonight, and you could say that our fans lifted us to victory.”
The game began with the home side immediately establishing control of the ball and pressing deep into Huskies territory. By the first minute of play, the Crimson had wrested a corner kick off Northeastern’s defense and looked poised to score. But the Huskies back line held strong and fended off Harvard’s early offensive chances.
Midway into the first half, the Crimson failed to capitalize on a scoring opportunity when co-captain Tim Linden failed to keep his shot on target and missed wide of the net.
Five minutes later, Northeastern earned its own scoring opportunity when sophomore forward Ricardo McDonald received a short pass in the penalty box and blasted a shot toward the left post. Senior goalkeeper Austin Harms, in an acrobatic display, lunged to his right and deflected the ball out of play.
Harms’ save drew gasps followed by thunderous applause from the crowd, re-injecting some energy into the atmosphere.
The end of the first half saw Harvard and Northeastern evenly matched, with the Huskies holding the edge in shots on goal, 6-4.
The second half saw the Crimson slowly increasing pressure on Northeastern. Within the first six minutes of play in the second half, senior midfielder Jamie Rees delivered two shots on goal, each flying just wide of the net.
Halfway into the second half, with the raucous crowd chanting spiritedly, the game’s momentum and transferred firmly into the hands of the home side. Harvard had scoring opportunity after opportunity, but the Huskies back line held firm and kept all threats at bay.
In the 66th minute, Rogers had a good chance on goal when his height, positioning, and hustle produced a header that flew high over the crossbar.
Rogers’ attempt on goal was a harbinger of what would come late in the second half, when the junior forward, working off a deflected corner kick by Linden, hustled his way past the Huskies back line to blast the game-winning goal past Northeastern goalkeeper Oliver Blum.
“After that goal, all I felt was pure happiness and excitement,” Rogers said. “It was a tight game, and I think that it was a bit of luck that the ball landed in front of me, but I was happy that I was able to put it away.”
With just seven minutes left in the game, the goal proved to be the difference maker in the contest, as it further emboldened the Crimson’s attack. In the waning minutes of the game, Harvard would record two additional shots on goal.
“It was a strong team effort overall,” Junot said. “We tend to focus more on the character of our team rather than just on the soccer tactics, and I was impressed with the character of our group tonight.”
—Staff writer Oluwatoni A. Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.